Investigators with Loma Linda University collected 72 water samples from fast food soda fountains in the Eastern Coachella Valley.
“We just looked at the water, and we found that there is cultivable coliforms, so coliforms actually grows on plates,” said Ryan Sinclair, one of the study's authors.
Sinclair says coliforms are an indicator of water contamination and that 41% of their samples tested positive for the bacteria.
“And the recommendation from the study is of course to really watch where you’re getting your drinking water from,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair added that their study revealed genetic traces of Salmonella and E.Coli. and the presence of organisms known as biofilms that pose a serious concern in environmental, industrial, and medical settings.
“We haven’t completed a health risk, there’s a process you’d go through to say if something is a health risk, and we didn’t do that process, we’re simply reporting on the findings, that we have from the soda fountains,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair said the amount of bacteria found in some of the samples exceed the levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“And when you think about it, it’s not that surprising, I mean these are machines that are out there and restaurants that have complex systems of tubes and pumps and that these machines probably don’t have best maintenance on them,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair says the problem probably isn’t unique to the Eastern Coachella Valley but shines a light on the need of owners of soda dispensers to regularly clean and flush them.
And in an area where some lack access to clean drinking water, this becomes another challenge families in the east have to face.
Sinclair says they’re next step is investigating if their findings pose any risk to public health.
“It can be disheartening, oh these are bad we shouldn’t drink from these, the well water has arsenic,” Sinclair said.